How to Make Croissants

  • 01 of 08

    Croissants in Morocco

    Homemade Croissants. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Croissants are a crescent-shaped French pastries which may be made from leavened or unleavened puff pastry dough. Both flaky and tender, they're characterized not only by their shape, but also by rich butter flavor and numerous layers created by repeatedly rolling and folding the dough prior to shaping.

    Croissants and other French pastries are very popular in Morocco. Many bakeries prepare freshly baked croissants twice each day – early in the morning in time for for breakfast, and again in...MORE the late afternoon to offer with Moroccan tea or coffee.

    The following pages show how to make and fold croissants using this leavened Basic Croissant Dough recipe. Although your active work time will only be about an hour, you'll need the better part of a day to allow for rising and chilling times. Or, plan to prepare the dough in the afternoon, and refrigerate overnight.

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  • 02 of 08

    Make the Starter Batter

    Allow the Batter 1 1/2 to 2 Hours to Mature. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Some croissant recipes involve making a dough and leaving it to rise before folding the dough around a large sheet of butter. The dough is then rolled out and folded several more times to create the multiple layers which characterize croissant dough.

    This recipe, however, uses a different technique. A starter batter is left to mature before incorporating it into a mixture of flour and bits of butter. Although the newly formed dough is a little more difficult to work with initially, I find it...MORE yields a croissant with better texture and more distinct layers than first method.

    Begin by making the batter. Dissolve 2 envelopes dry yeast (or 2 tablespoons fresh yeast) in 3/4 cup (175 ml) warm water. Then add the following ingredients and whisk together to make a smooth batter:

    • 3/4 cup (about 100 g) flour
    • 1/2 cup (120 ml) warm milk
    • 2 tablespoons sugar

    Cover the bowl with plastic and leave to rise in a draft-free place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. You'll notice that the mixture becomes quite bubbly during this time.

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  • 03 of 08

    Prepare the Butter and Flour Mixture

    Combine the Cold Butter and Flour. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    While the batter is maturing, cut 12 oz. (340 g) of cold unsalted butter into 1/2" (1.3 cm) pieces. It's important that the butter stays cold throughout the dough-making process, so return the butter to the fridge if you're not ready to work with it.

    In a large bowl, combine 3 cups (390 g) flour with 2 teaspoons salt. Add the cut-up butter, and use your fingers to mix so that each piece of butter is coated with the flour. Press the butter pieces between your fingers to flatten them a...MORE bit, but don't try to incorporate them into the flour.

    Cover and refrigerate the butter and flour mixture until ready to proceed.

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  • 04 of 08

    Mix the Croissant Dough

    Mix the Batter with the Flour and Butter Mixture. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Add the starter batter to the cold butter and flour mixture. Use a rubber spatula to mix them together just until the flour is moistened. The butter should still be in chunks.

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  • 05 of 08

    Roll Out Dough for the First Time and Fold

    First Folding of the Croissant Dough - The Dough Will Smooth Out Later. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    The croissant dough must be rolled out and folded a total of four times to create the characteristic layers. The first folding is a little tricky because the dough is "rough" in the sense that the butter is still chunky and the dough hasn't been kneaded. After the first folding, the process becomes easier.

    Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. If the top of the dough is wet or sticky, sprinkle it with flour.

    Press the dough with your hands or use a rolling pin to form an elongated...MORE rectangle about 12" x 18" (30 cm x 45 cm). Use a dough scraper or your hands to help shape the edges.

    Sprinkle any exposed butter with flour, and then fold the dough in thirds like a letter. You may find it a bit difficult to lift the edges of the rough dough to fold it – I use two dough scrapers to do this – but don't worry about appearances at this point. The dough will smooth out and the flour will be better incorporated after the next folding.

    If the butter is still firm, continue on to the next step for the second folding. If the butter has softened and is starting to run, cover the dough in plastic and chill it in the freezer for 15 minutes (or in the fridge for one hour) before rolling out the second time.

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  • 06 of 08

    Roll Out and Fold the Dough for Second Time

    Roll Out and Fold the Croissant Dough Again. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Scrape your work surface to clean it and dust it with more flour. Place the folded dough so that a short, open edge faces you. Roll out the dough into another 12" x 18" (30 cm x 45 cm) rectangle. You can see that the dough is already taking on a smoother appearance.

    Sprinkle flour on any exposed butter, brush off the excess flour, and fold the dough into thirds again. This completes the second folding.

    Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes, or in the fridge for...MORE an hour.

    Repeat the rolling and folding two more times, chilling the dough between times. After the fourth and final folding, wrap the dough in plastic and leave to rest in the fridge for at least two hours, or up to 24 hours.

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  • 07 of 08

    Cut the Dough Into Triangles and Roll Into Croissants

    Roll Triangles Into Classic Croissant Shape. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Cut the prepared croissant dough in half. On a floured surface, roll out one portion of the dough into a large rectangle about 1/4" (6 mm) thick. Use a large, sharp knife or pizza cutter to trim straight edges on the rectangle, and then cut out 8 elongated triangles. (My triangles in the photo weren't cut evenly, so I ended up with a few croissants that were a bit smaller than the others.)

    Roll up the triangles from the base to the tip, and transfer the croissants to ungreased baking...MORE sheets with rims. (I use parchment paper for easier cleanup.) Leave ample room between the croissants for expansion.

    Cover the croissants loosely with plastic and leave to rise for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough is quite puffy.

    An alternate fold: To form a a bent crescent shape with tapered edges, make a small slit in the base of the triangle. Roll up the triangle from the base to the tip, and bend the edges downwards.

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  • 08 of 08

    Bake the Croissants

    Brush the Croissants with Egg Wash and Bake Until Golden. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    When the croissants have risen, preheat an oven to 400° F (200° C).

    Make an egg wash by beating together one egg with one tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash lightly over the croissants, and bake in the middle of the preheated oven until a rich golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

    Transfer the croissants to a rack to cool for 10 minutes or longer before serving. Frozen croissants can be reheated directly from the freezer in a 375° F (190° C) oven for 10 minutes.